Herbal Medicine, as an industry, can be unsustainable and many times unethical. Numerous people consume or harvest plant material for their benefits without any further reflection on how these actions may affect plant population or other humans that have relied on these plants for medicine, culture and/or food for centuries. Medicinal plants are consumed at an unsustainable rate in relation to their growth and, for that reason, an ecological debt is created. As sad as it is, a great majority of people consume herbs or herbal products with the intention of promoting their health while doing good for the Earth. The intention of healing exists, but the knowledge on how to achieve it in a sustainable way is not accessible or shared to the public. Products like essential oils, which demand for pounds and pounds of herbs, are bought and even thrown out without any regard on the quantity of resources in them. Some herbs, such as adaptogens which are usually roots, have become trendy and this results in massive and unethical harvesting practices alongside ecological and financial gaps that limit the access of indigenous people to these herbs. Plants like white sage, which is used in reverence, are now critically endangered as species. Our consumption lies upon a sinking ground of ignorance, planting nothing and taking endlessly.
There is a huge disconnection in the knowledge and appreciation of a plant - it's growth cycle, who traditionally relies on it, and its ecological role, among other aspects. In the end, what is of most value, is to be able to use these herbs for generations hereinafter. Below are some tips on how to choose herbs and become a conscious consumer that chooses to respect indigenous cultures and sustainable practices.
Going Back to Our Roots - Local is Best
The real answer is supporting local growers/herbalists and/or to grow oneself - this is the MOST important piece. This post was inspired in the sheer lack of sustainable practices, local organic growers, and accessibility to information on the subject worldwide. This is the sustainability gap referred to in this post, it represents a tangible problem every day more urgent to attend. If consumption outweighs production, prices continuously increase and it becomes a privilege, inaccessible to lower income classes. In terms of food and medicine security, what happens if herbs cease to be imported? If each consumer can grow one single herb in a decent amount, which doesn’t require a lot of space, this herb can be used as trade with the local community. For example, with two turmeric plants, apart from obtaining the medicine needed, 100 starts can be generated in less than 4 months. Plants are abundant and can produce great amounts of material in a small space, thus quality doesn’t mean exactly high prices. For herbal consumers who love plants, developing a relationship with each of the plants grown is a special and transcendental experience.
UNETHICAL HARVESTING METHODS
Trained herbalists have the knowledge of a plant's reproduction cycle, it's growth rate and how much yield you can get from it in a season, all of which either add or subtract from the value of the plant material we get. This “value” is different from the market value, although they can correlate at times. For example, an endangered root medicine like echinacea, is more sparingly than a high yielding leaf medicine, although they may be sold at the same price at the store. Those with access to education and conscious care in this subject give more value to plant material that demands more time, materials and/or space. How long that plant has been alive, and its current population status, should also be taken into consideration. This same knowledge should be passed to a consumer when buying plants.
Unethical harvesting methods include wild harvesting endangered plant species or harvesting in ways that damage the plant reproduction cycle and plant populations. If an endangered plant species must be used for a specific case, and there is no substitute for it, supporting a locally grown one over an imported wild harvested one is the best solution.
THINGS YOU NEED TO ASK AND KNOW WHEN PURCHASING HERBAL HEALTH PRODUCTS:
Do I need to consume this specific plant?
Is this species endangered or at risk?
Was this plant grown or wild harvested?
How was this plant harvested?
What part of the plant is it?
Where was it grown and processed?
How abundant is this plant and how long is its life cycle?
How far did this herb had to travel to come to my hands?
Do all the hands involved in this purchase get a living wage?
Is my consumption increasing prices or decreasing the indigenous communities’ access to it?
If you do need to import or buy herbs that are imported, then other considerations need to be taken into account. Many professional herbalists, holistic stores and herbal distributors must ship certain herbs from other areas of the world when obtaining specialty herbs, with this, fair trade and/or ethical practices happen to be compromised. When herbs are shipped, the price is for the importation, the travel, and the cost of the herbs. In this case, usually, fair wages and sustainable practices are not being supported unless a premium price is paid. This means that normal prices on the shelves are sometimes indicators of unhealthy practices in one or more stages of the production chain.
Another consideration is the ecological impact that importing has on the world's carbon footprint. Things to look for as a consumer when buying imported herbal products is fair-trade and looking into a company's harvesting methods. A herbalist using traditional knowledge, in the best scenario, would cultivate locally the herbs needed and give back to indigenous populations that lived on the land being used or that have historically used the plant and developed the knowledge about it that is being used today.
IMPORTING, ECOLOGICAL DEBTS & INDIGENOUSE CONSIDERATIONS
Unless you are growing your own herbs an ecological debt is created in the system, which is accounted for with a financial exchange, the price of the herbs. When any good is imported, it drives up the local prices thus making them less accessible to the people who traditionally relied on them. This has happened with crops like quinoa, avocados, cocoa and maca which are all now less accessible to their local economy and the indigenous peoples who used these medicines freely. Other indigenous considerations are that herbal medicine is a traditional knowledge, and many wisdom keepers are those from indigenous populations. When herbs that belong to these peoples’ culture and tradition are used, knowing that their knowledge is being supported and respected by whatever means they desire must be assured.
This is intended to help consumers when purchasing herbal products, supporting companies and businesses that are responsibly producing herbal products and hopefully inspiring you to start growing one herb and/or to connect with herbs a little bit more.
Okay, so with the Coronavirus panic rushing around I thought it was no better time then to post this bad boy. If herbal medicine is superior to any type of conventional Western medicine - it's working preventively. We have herbs that have actually been around, growing and evolving with the viruses present in today's time so when we begin to consume them for their immune system defences we get the best most recently adapted medicine out there.
The World Health Public Organization and Canada's government have stated to wash your hands, cough into your arm, and stay away from those that are sick. But traditional treatment says, boost your immunity, take time to rest, eat healthy food and of course still wash your hands, keep personal space, sanitize hard surfaces and self-isolate when need be.
Herbal medicine is about giving your body the best ability to fight back so that IF it does come in contact with anything it has a better chance at fighting it.
Before I get into herbs I want to also state that lifestyle is obviously needed. Yes, you can take all the herbs out there but if you don't wash your hands you risk getting sick (unless you have some crazy immunity of steal). Make sure to eat a wholesome diet rich in anti-oxidants, omegas, iron and folates which help nourish the body and boost the immunity. Eat a well balanced diet and cut off sugar and carbs if you can. Ensure adequate rest and outdoor time and space away from other individuals to reset and recharge. Drink lots of water, and get some movement in. Other supplements such as Vitamin D, C, E, folates, zinc, Selenium and iron have also been demonstrated to help the body's immunity. Having a healthy gut flora is essentially the backbone of our health so establishing one if your immune deficient/get colds often is something to definitely look into too. I plan on posting about that later though.
Please do not consume any of these plants in essential oil form. Essential oils are really not to be consumed unless under certain circumstances and are really destructive on the mucus membranes in our GIT. When we damage our gut lining we are actually MORE susceptible to other pathogens, that's why we have very strict protocols for how we correctly dose and use essential oils internally. Even oil of oregano does more harm then good - plus many of the studies on it's effectiveness, are the whole plant counterpart, which is more safe, and productive for establishing health. Taking essential oils for health is the same idea as taking modern, conventional allopathic medication for health - it's a simplistic point of view, instead of a holistic strategy. Just because something is more potent, doesn't mean it's healthier. I do however love essential oils topically (with a carrier oil!) when I am feeling under and as an extra preventive measure. They are great medicine when used right and yes, some species can be taken internally too.
ANYWAYS...back to whole form herbs.
So, when were looking at the Corona Virus we want to be taking herbs that either inhibit the cells penetration of our cells, boost our immune system, have anti-viral qualities to them or attach to viruses inhibiting them from doing anything to us. We have no way of knowing for sure if these herbs will be effective against COVID-19 due to lack of scientific testing BUT we can look at herbs that are effective at boosting the immune system or are effective against viruses in the same family.
Echinacea angustafolia/purpurea - also known as Echinacea is a powerhouse, immune modulating herb. It can help an overactive immune system calm down and an underactive one get up and going. The active constituents lie in the root of the plant. And, due to the plant's popular effective healing properties, Echinacea is currently endangered from mass harvesting. I am stating this so you know when you consume this plant it's life died for you - and you should have a deep reverance knowing that. Echinacea works though, and its probably one of the best immune system herbs out there so do use it when you need, just don't over consume it. It stimulates the immune system’s ability to fight off a wide span of infection including fungal, bacterial and viral. This herb works both directly and indirectly in the body. Indirectly it stimulates white blood cell production therefore enhancing the body’s immune system. On a cellular level it works by supplying constituents such as polysaccharides into the body which inhibit a virus’s ability to enter and take over cells. The alkaloids, (which cause the tingly sensation in the mouth), are antibacterial and anti-fungal, also working directly at the cellular level. This herb is best taken at the on-start of a decrease in the immune system in order to inhibit any progression of infection and boost the white blood cells in the body. It is recommended to take this herb in tincture measurements of 5ml – 20ml per day over the whole day or 20ml all at once right before going to bed if thats when your starting to feel it come on. This can also be taken during an illness to help the body heal faster.
Scutellaria baicalensis - also known as chinese skullcap is another immune modulating herb but with bronchodilator actions and affinity. It's been adopted into Western Herbalist due to it's unique profile but is actually from Chinese Medicine origin. I personally believe this plant is one of the most effective preventive measures one could take. It is specific to SARS-related group of viruses such as Cov-2/coronavirus as it protects the attachment point of virus entry, thus helping to inhibit it's penetration. It is also an immune modulating herb - helping to regulate cytokine dis-regulation which when infected with Cov-2, many experience. Many of the studies on this herb's anti-viral properties have been on HIV-1 but nonetheless, it's been demonstrated to inhibit the enzyme that that viruses use to replicate thus decreasing the severity and duration of an infection. This herb would be great during an outbreak with Cov-2 for those infected and those caring for them. This plant is also anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory so if your prone to bacterial lung infections and/or have asthma this herb is a great choice to take now during this season as a preventative measure and to inhibit allergies, and asthma. You do however have to take 35ml of this per week for is to be effective and caution must be taken with this herb as its also the root that we use. Please use with reverence and compassion.
Glycyrrhiza spp - also known as liquorice and is an anti-viral herb that helps to inhibit a viruses entry into our cells. In vitro studies have demonstrated this herb effective against a wide strain of viruses including HSV-1 and SARS related coronaviruses (note that corona virus is a family of viruses). It works directly by binding to the entry point of the cells, changing the fluidity of cell membranes making them impenetrable for viruses and indirectly by inducing T-regulatory cell production. More studies are needed to test this herbs direct efficacy on Cov-2 but out of all our herbal allies, its probably one of the best ones to take specific for this virus. I would recommend 20ml-40ml per week.
Sambucus Niger (FRUC/FLOS) - known as Elder Flower/Berry is a common anti-viral herb. This herb works like liquorice and chinese skullcap in the way that it also helps to protect the attachment point of our cells thus helping to reduce the penetration of the virus into our body. If penetration does occur however this herb also helps to stimulate the immune response - activating T-cells which signals get lost during Covid-19 (the infection if Cov-2). Studies have demonstrated this herb effective against at least 10 strains of influenza and making the recovery time of colds and flus shorter due to it's immune stimulating effects. Having a mixture of both the flower and berry can be really beneficial at this time to help protect the mucus membranes, cells and be anti-viral. You can make a syrup, or buy a tinctures and enjoy daily. Safe enough for the whole family, including children and elders.
Cordyceps - a type of mushroom is another great addition into your immunity punch pack. These bad boys are wonderful immune modulators/enhancers while also helping to regulate autoimmunity and stimulate DC maturation. Stephen Harrod Buhner goes into them allot more in their article about Cov-2 and states that have also been used to protect the cilia of the lungs and are overall wonderful additions specific to this kind of infection/outbreak. I would get these guys in capsulated form and take between 2-3 caps two times per day (00 size capsules).
I hope this all gives you a bit of peace of mind amidst the chaos of the world. Remember that sickness, even on a global scale is about coming home to yourself. It's a transformative time to come inwards and reflect and build ourselves up. I wish you all nothing but health and healing. Please take precautionary measures but enjoy life.
Asia Mann, Herbalist, ERYT-200hr, Birth Doula & Energy Worker.
Fiore, C., Eisenhut, M., Krausse, R., Ragazzi, E., Pellati, D., Armanini, D., & Bielenberg, J. (2007, September 20). Antiviral effects of Glycyrrhiza species. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.2295
Hofmann, H., Pyrc, K., van der Hoek, L., Geier, M., Berkhout, B., & Pöhlmann, S. (2005, May 31). Human coronavirus NL63 employs the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus receptor for cellular entry. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15897467
Li, W., Zhang, C., Sui, J., Kuhn, J. H., Moore, M. J., Luo, S., … Farzan, M. (2005, April 20). Receptor and viral determinants of SARS-coronavirus adaptation to human ACE2. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15791205
PMC, E. (n.d.). Use of quantitative flow cytometry to measure ex vivo immunostimulant activity of echinacea: the case for polysaccharides. Retrieved from https://europepmc.org/article/MED/17718645
Recharging the Immune System With Supplements. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2018/September2018/recharging-the-immune-system-with-supplements
Zhao, Q., Chen, X.-Y., & Martin, C. (2016). Scutellaria baicalensis, the golden herb from the garden of Chinese medicinal plants. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5031759/
With Valentine's day just passing I feel like I want to continue on this month focusing on self-love and self-care. To me, self-care is an act of self-love and is the farthest thing from being selfish. Being selfish comes from an intention of lack whereas self-love and care comes from an abundance of love and giving people the best you, not what's left of you.
I love having time alone to nourish myself holistically and really support myself on all levels.
I am an introvert at heart so I need time by myself to recharge.
In this post I have added some of my favourite holistic and herbal self-care routines that I have picked up from yoga trainings, Ayurvedic traditions, and botanical medicine.
Remember when you are doing them, the intention matters. Remember to always check in and make a clear, powerful intention before starting - you will feel a difference, promise.
1) COOK WITH LOVE
It sounds so simple, yet one of my favourite self-care actions is cooking with love. I always like to incorporate herbs into my diet and cook like I am NOURISHING my body. Depending on the time of year i'll use herbs to cool down my dishes or spice them up. If I am feeling extra depleted, ill cook some root vegetables and spice it up with some cinnamon, cumin or another warming herb to make the dish a little bit more sweet and warm so my body can do less trying to digest it. I always like to eat as fresh, local and seasonal as possible. Eating whole foods are obviously better then processed but getting creative with how you prepare, spice and serve them will keep things interesting and exciting. Remember to view food both as pleasure and nourishment. It should excite you but also fulfill you. Don't cheep out when it comes to your nourishment.
2) HERBAL TEAS FOR NOURISHMENT
In my diet I also include herbal teas for health and wellness. A good cup of tea can completely calm me and when they are specially made for me with a herbalists intention you can feel the energy of their intention. It's healing in a cup. Some of my favourites for nourishment and self-care are rose, camomile, melissa, oat straw, holy basil, elderberries, damiana, borage, nettle and spearmint. I tell people to go by their nose, and if a herb smells good then try it. You can also mix up a few and use them together. Make sure to steep with a lid on so all the volatile oils are contained in the cup, unless you plan on inhaling them as you sit with your tea as it steeps. If you are using camomile then make sure you press the herb to get out all the constituents, it's a very absorbent flower that unless it's pressed won't excrete the good stuff. The tea should be a dark yellow almost orange colour and should taste slightly bitter.
If you want your own custom tea head over to here.
3) YONI STEAMS
Yoni steams are such a beautiful container of intimate connection and support for yourself and your womb. I love being able to connect to the divine feminine in such a gentle, subtle yet powerful way. Basically you make a steam by putting hot water over some dried herbs to then "sit" overtop of. You can choose to lay down in a childs with the bowl between your legs or sit on a stool specially designed with a hole in the centre for steaming. Read more about yoni steaming here.
4) ABHYANGA / SELF- MASSAGE
Now, this is also one of my FAVOURITES. I love giving myself a good self-massage with an infused oil. You can easily create your own infused oil, or you can just add some essential oils into some almond, coconut, grapeseed or sesame oil. Depending on the time of year, I switch between different oils, using heavier ones in the winter, and the lighter ones in the summer. If I want extra loving I will warm up the oil before putting it on so that it nourishes my nervous system even more. Some favourite essential oils are lavender, camomile, ginger, and rosemary. Remember to dilute your essential oils and use a carrier when applying.
5) HERBAL BATHS
If your a bath person, putting some essential oils in your bath salts, or some herbs in you water is amazing. You can either steep a really strong pot of tea that you strain and add into your bath, add teabags directly to your bath or if you don't mind the mess add herbs straight into your bath. Some old traditional methods are putting herbs, such as oats, in an old that gets tied and put into the tub. If you want to use essential oils then make sure to add to your bath salts or have a self-massage before your bath and use some then.
6) HERBS FOR HEART HEALTH
Some just general herbs I integrate into my life more when I want to invoke more love, whether for self or others are:
Whatever your movement style is, making sure you get some movement in each week. I personally love free flowing dance and yoga. Moving my body in whatever way it wants feels SO good and really opens up my energy channels and physical body. I think we should have daily movement to explore our bodies and allow emotions to flow.
8) GUA SHA / JADE ROLLING
It's amazing how much stress your face holds. I never realized how much I held on in between my eyebrows and my jaw until I started to massage my face with my gua sha stone. Basically these stones bring a pressure to your skin and stimulates a bit of surface inflammation so expect your skin to go a bit pink. Inflammation is really good for your body in small doses, it helps bring nutrients and increases the amount of cell growth and repair in those tissues. It also just feels AMAZING.
9) CLEAR YOUR ENERGY
I think people forget how much other people's energy effects us on a daily basis. If we are unconscious, we end up being magnets for all the different energies around us. Obviously, I believe we can block energy if we so choose, but I also believe should be regularly clearing our energy. Some ways I like to clear my energy is through nature walks, long baths (maybe with some herbs for cleansing), meditating with the sun on my third eye, and smudging with whatever I have around. I personally have been loving using mullein, rosemary and culinary sage to clear my field.
10) MEDITATION & PRANAYAMA
You don't have to meditate the way that everyone depicts it. Sometimes my mediation is in the bath, or a few breaths after yoga or my morning tea routine. The whole idea is to just become aware of your breath, thoughts and the present moment. By breathing deeply into the tummy we relax the whole body and calm the nervous system. If your ever feeling short on time, pressured and/or anxious take ten deep breaths. In the moments we think we don't have the time for ten breaths we need it the most!
Another breath work practice that I learned in well studying Ayurveda is nadi shodhana which is alternate nostril breathing; it helps to calm the left and right hemisphere of the brain while balancing the upper nadis of the body. This ones my favourite to do before/after meditation.
In today’s modern world, environmental pollutions, antibiotics, and hormones are everywhere. The liver, a main site of detoxification is responsible for metabolizing all the chemicals that enter our blood stream while also breaking down old and damaged cells. A liver not functioning optimally can lead to a host of other problems: chronic inflammation, hormonal fluctuations, that foggy brain feeling and suppressed immunity to name a few. The liver is responsible for storing many vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, iron and copper, releasing them when need. Many of these vitamins and minerals are essential for the body’s energy production. The liver is also the only internal organ capable of regeneration which implies its significance within evolution and the it’s integral function within the body.
Silybum marianum, also known as milk thistle is a liver protecting, liver restorative, anti-oxidant, medicinal herb that has been used for thousands of years with little contraindications. Its seeds have shown its efficiency in aiding to return the body to homeostasis through supporting the liver in its many functions. Since the liver must filter all the metabolites that enter the blood a gentle metabolic detox could be greatly beneficial after any significate hormonal changes, the use of perception drugs, a weekend out, or can even be used as system boost during spring.
Studies have shown milk thistles ability to assist the body during Dysmenorrhea, PMS, chronic inflammation, jaundice, hepatitis and to aid in the restoration of liver function after chemotherapy and other environmental factors that could have damaged the liver. Krista Dawn Poulton, a Medical Herbalist specializing in female reproductive health, encourages it use for new mothers, helping the body break down the intense hormones of childbirth while also acting as a very mild galactogogue, helping to encourage milk flow. This herb would also be an excellent assist for the body prenatally for anyone wanting to get pregnant or anyone experiencing hormonal challenges. This herb can be very useful in supporting the liver through rehab and detoxification after of drug and alcohol use.
Silybum marianums key constituents are flavonlignans which include silybin and silymarin. These flavonlignans are important antioxidants, and hepaprotective/herpatotrophorestorative (liver protecting/building) constituents. This plant also has many bitters, which aid in the production and secreation of bile and digestion assisting the bodies ability to break down fats and lipid-based hormones.
The standard does for this herb would be 1-4ml of tincture twice per day or 1-3 grams of the ground up herb in capsules each day. Milk thistle seeds have low water-solubility therefore only tinctures and capsules will be an effective way of receiving a medicinal amount.
The known contraindications of this herb are: any allergies to the Asteraceae family, and anyone on Metronidazole.
The energetics of this plant are: sweet, pungent, bitter, warming, stimulating, decongesting, restoring and for use when the tissue states are atrophic and toxic. This plant has an affinity for the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, bladder and uterus.
Healing the state of the liver can help with your bodies resiliency to pollutions, mental and physical well-being and its ability to fight off infection. By assisting the liver with Silybum marianum you could experience more energy, a greater sense of clarity in your mind and a more resilient immune system. Talk to a medical herbalist today to find out if Silybum marianum is a suitable choice for you.
Works Cited(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279393/
Newman, T. (2018, March 2). Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/305075.php
TIsza Chemical Works Leninvaros. (1988). PUB MED. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3073356
Reclaiming your right to pleasure
With the growing awareness in woman's health and female sexual expression we see feminine care making it's debut on the world of social media. Blogs, youtube channels, and metaphysical stores are all beginning to showcase yoni eggs and herbal mixtures for your bits demonstrating a beautiful shift in human consciousness. Woman are now being accepted to express themselves sexually - embracing their right to pleasure.
As a culture, we are moving out of the dark ages when woman were called "easy" and/or "fidget" and are starting to recognize them as the human beings they are, with desires and needs of their own. Woman are now able to embrace their sexuality as an aspect of life, remembering their right for equality through life's simple natural pleasures and noticing that they do not "owe" anyone any part of their body no matter how they would like to show it off. I would also like to note that in many areas of the world woman as a demographic, are repressed and do not have the opportunity I, and probably you have. Many woman are still being mutilated of their bits and will never get access to half of the opportunities I will. My hopes in stating this, is to address the privilege I have and to bring to light the inequality of woman globally in hopes that we, as the privileged collective will eventually, make the change to bring forth more opportunities to those in need.
As someone who has experience my own story of sexual and physical trauma I always had difficulty allowing myself to feel good. It was through yoga I began to realize how blocked and constricted my body had become over my childhood and teens. I want everyone reading this to understand trauma no matter how large or small blocks you energetically. Your body holds it until it has the time to resurface and leave. Until then it will show up in your other bodies, the emotional, the spiritual and eventually if left untreated, the physical. There is many different practices we can begin to incorporate into our self-care routiens to reclaim our right to creativity, spontaneity and pleasure through unblocking and nurturing our sacral chakra and yoni steaming is by far one of my favourites!
So lets get to the good stuff shall we?
Yoni steaming has been around for thousands of years and dates back to many traditional cultures around the world most notably within the Mayan traditions. Traditionally, is was used in aiding in PMS, infertility, fibroids and other female aliments. Yoni steaming works through allowing the steam of a herbal infusion to gently cleanse, soften and relax your bits. The steam of the herbal infusion contains volatile oils (essential oils) of the herbs chosen, which depending on the herbs, will have different medicinal properties. The steam itself brings circulation and blood flow to your womb and bits, boosting natural healing while also promoting a deep relaxing sensation for you while encouraging you to come into a state of being and receiving. It is most effective as a practice right before your period to encourage your menses, or after to help support your bodies natural detoxification.
Benefits of yoni steaming that woman have reported are as follows:
You sold yet?
Please note it is advised that due to the excess heat yoni steams produce those expecting or have any sort of open wound and those menstruating should not practice yoni steaming and there is insufficient studies as to whether practicing with an IUD would cause the IUD to move. Many of the herbs used to cleanse the womb are emmenagogues and therefore are also abortives. It is also advisable to not practice yoni steaming while having any sort of outbreak, (i.e. yeast, herpes, bacterial) but can be used as preventive measures. Please talk with a trained herbalist or medical professional if yoni steaming is right for you.
So how do you begin?
I like to personally start my ceremony with an intention, maybe I would like to incorporate some more softness in my womb, or clear a past experience energetically. Whatever it is I strongly advise you to get clear on what has brought you to this practice, as with any great action we need a clear intention.
After it's time to pick out some herbs!
If your city has a natural food store or herbal dispensary then they will probably have some herbs to choose from. If not, you can always go online and order bulk. I would choose high quality, either wild harvested or organically grown herbs.
Here are some ideas of herbs that are safe to use in a yoni steam. Please remember its actually the volatile oils in the herbs that will be extracted by the steam. In general herbs with more smell have more volatile oils and are usually antimicrobial having either antibiotic, antiviral and/or anti fungal effects but it depends on the specific herb. Below I have also include herbs that are good for female aliments when taken internally but wanted to be clear many of these constituents won't be extracted by the steam. Yet, I do not underestimate the power of intention and ceremony. I believe by adding these herbs when understanding their energetics and their long ethnobotanical use helps one harness the herbs power into their ceremony.
Rosa officinalis (Rose petals) : Rose is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent and a natural aphrodisiac. It's very uplifting to the emotions and has a very sensual, fragrant smell (high volatile oils) which can be used to calm restless minds.
Matricaria chamomilla (Camomile) : Camomile is very soothing to the mind and body. Camomile has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antibacterial, astringent qualities and has tons of volatile oils.
Rubus ideaus (Red Raspberry Leaf) :
Famously known for its nutritive qualities for woman during pregnancy and PMS this astringent, anti-spasmodic herb is an excellent asset to bring into your yoni steam. Although this herb is best taken as a tea for weeks before we can see scientific measurable results it can also be used to simulate a great connection to the feminine spirit due to its long historical use for feminine aliments.
Lavandula (Lavender) : Lavender is anti-inflamatory, soothing and sensual. It has antiseptic, calming and anti-viral properties and the votile oils have been said to easy anxiety and depression.
Origanum vulgare (Oregano) : Used traditionally for its medicinal antimicrobial properties this strong herb is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-viral. Said to encourage the onset of menses.
Calendula officinalis (Marigold) : Marigold is well known as an antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial, vulnerary herb excellent for soothing skin conditions. Calendula is excellent for those healing from any sort of scar tissue and/or fungal infection.
Ocimum tenuiflorum (Holy Basil) : Holy Basil is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and a natural analgesic. This is an amazing herb to have as a cup of tea for all those warm fuzzy feels during your yoni steam!
Artemisia vulgaris (Mugwort) : Used internally to promote menses and calm anxiety this tonifying, nutritive, nervine has been used for thousands of years to help woman through PMS and emotional aliments.
Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) : Vulnerary, antimocrobrial and aromatic. Rosemary is most well known for its ability to treat bacterial infection while inhibiting fungal growth. It is also beneficial in stimulating menstruation.
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) : Astringent, tonifying and cleansing. Yarrow is great for modulating menses, helping to encourage your flow yet decreases excessive bleeding. Yarrow is also useful when one is wanting to cleanse their whomb energetically and physically. It's been said to help in treating ovarian cysts and is wonderful in supporting overall feminine health.
Mitchella repens (partridge berry) : A diuretic, emmenagogue, and styptic herb. Partridge berry is known for its traditional use in PMS, pregnancy, birth and post-partum. Partridge berry helps to decease severe menstrual pain, encourages your menses and promotes healthy detoxification in the body. Traditionally it has also been used to help treat infertility and ease sore nipples after birth. Please note do not use any herbs when pregnant or breastfeeding without proper medical advice from a trained herbalist.
Leonurus cardiaca (Motherwort) : Used traditionally to help modulate menses through relaxing and tonfiying to the womb. This herb helps to onset missed or irregular periods and eases menopause symptoms when taken internally. It's both astringent and relaxing to the uterus and may help treat uterine fibroids. Motherwort also has antimicrobial properties.
Now after you have chosen your herb(s) you need to boil some water and get a bowl ready. Pick a small/medium sized bowl in which hot water can be held. I use a pyrex glass bowl thats about 3inch high and 6inch wide in diameter. You want to be in a dress or skirt or have a blanket you can put around you. Some woman prefer to disinfect their toilet and use this method as-well. Add your herbs, you will want about one teaspoon per cup of water and add the boiling water to the bowl.
Then adjust to a comfortable position. I personally get some pillows out in-front and go into a child's pose with the bowl between my legs. The skirt traps the steam and allows you to enjoy the gentle mist of herbal magic. I like to drink a herbal tea at the same time, listen to some background music and just focus on relaxing through connecting into my breath. If you can try to avoid "doing" anything, and practice coming into a state of being and receiving.
If you need sometimes adding a mantra or affirmation can be really helpful to bring your mind into some focus. Here are some examples of some affirmations that help to unblock your sacral chakra...
Asia Mann, E-RYT-200hr, Clinical Herbalist, Holistic Birth Doula & Intuitive Healer